Culture bias in psychology


Introduction and alpha bias

  • Culture bias occurs when people of one culture make assumption about the behaviour of people of another culture based on their own cultural norms and practices.
  • Traditions psychology characterised by biases that reflect the culture of Europe and USA.
  • Ethnocentrism - use of our own ethnic or cultural group as a basis for judgements about other groups. Tendancy to view the beliefs, customs and behaviours of our own group as normal whereas those of other groups are strange.
  • Hare-Mustin and Maracek (1988) - before being able to decide if there are cultural differences one must consider the extent to which any research is biased. 2 biases - alpha and beta
  • Alpha bias - assumes there are real differences in cultural groups. Findings are ungeneralisable to cultures other than the one is was conducted in. E.g. distinction made between individualist (US) and collectivist (Japan) countries. 
  • Dealt with by using emic apporach as shows the uniqueness of cultures. Emic approachees involve indigenous researchers studying their own cultural groups - i.e. it is the study of behaviour from within a culture. Findings tend to be significant only to the understadning of behaviour within that culture.
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Beta bias and Western cultures

  • Beta bias - ignores cultural differences. Ignore differences between cultures resulting in findings not being able to be generalised. E.g. IQ tests are used to measure intelligence. Western based meaning people form other countries may not obtain the same results - may not seem as intelligent as those form Western societies.
  • Dealt with by using the derived etic approach. Acknowldges differences so can change tests for different cultures. Acknowledges the role of cultural factors and recognises human behaviour differs form one culture to another so methors from other cultures are inappropriate. E.g. American tests such as Aschs technique to study confomrity may not produce meaningful results in other countries.
  • Most psychological research is carried out on Americans. E.g. Smith and Bond (1998) analysed a british textbooka dn found 66% of studies were american, 32% were european and 2% came from the rest of the world.
  • Sears (1986) reported that 82% of reserach studies use undergraduates as participants and 51% were psychology students. Suggests that psychology is based on middle-class, acedemic, young adults who are often male. Indicates psychology findings are not only unrepresentative on a global scale but also within the Western culture.
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